Olympic Golf

It’s Merits and Detriments.
 
Golf does not have a storied past in the Olympic Games. Introduced at the 1900 Paris Games, it featured 22 players from four countries (France, Greece, Great Britain and the U.S.). It was last featured four years later in St. Louis, when the U.S. fielded 77 players and Canada, the only other country participating, fielded three, including the winner, George Lyon. After a 112-year hiatus, it returns to Rio de Janeiro this year. A great deal has been written about its inclusion, both for and against it. Here we present a synopsis of both viewpoints.
 
Pros
 
The Olympics, both summer and winter versions, are among the most watched TV events in the world, with some estimating the audience in the billions. That can certainly bode well for the game as viewers from many countries where golf is not currently well-known may be intrigued enough to give it a try. The course being built in Brazil is scheduled to be used afterward as “a public facility with the chief purpose of promoting golf in Brazil,” according to the International Olympic Committee. Translation, it will be a public course for 10 years and its future unknown after that period. Golf’s entry in the Games also gives some of the world’s best golfers an opportunity to win something new: an Olympic medal.
 
Cons
 
Unfortunately, there are many reasons why golf has been missing from the Olympic Games for over a century and why its inclusion this year has drawn a great deal of criticism, beginning with the format. Unlike the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, this will not be a team event. Like nearly all golf tournaments, this will be a 72-hole individual stroke-play competition. How will it differ from Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day going head-to-head at dozens of other events this year?
 
It’s a small field, with only 60 players participating. Qualification is a bit convoluted. The top 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the men and Rolex Ranking for the women will automatically qualify, as long as there are no more than four players per country. After the 15th-ranked player, the rankings will be used to determine the rest of the 60-player field, with no more than two players per country beyond the top 15 able to compete.
 
As of February 7, 2016, the U.S. would be represented by Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson on the men’s side and by Stacie Lewis, Lexi Thompson and Christie Kerr on the women’s side.
 
Rankings change constantly as one player wins and another misses a cut and it’s conceivable that a player who gets hot after the qualification deadline will not be eligible to compete. It’s also conceivable that the number one ranked golfer in the world could be pitted against one ranked 600. While anything can happen, this competition would be as fair as the U.S. going up against Jamaica in bobsledding.
 
The appeal of the Olympic Games has been national pride and the ability of the some of the world’s best athletes to represent their country. However, both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup provide this opportunity for American golfers.
 
The addition of the Olympics has further compressed a schedule that is crowded. On the PGA Tour, for example, there is an 11-week stretch where 8 of 11 events are majors, Olympics, Fed Ex Cup or the Ryder Cup. Many players will have to choose which events to play and which to skip.
 
One last concern and one that may well influence athlete participation at the 2016 Summer Olympics, and not just by golfers. Brazil, along with many South and Central American countries and a handful of U.S. southern states, is seeing a significant increase of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects. We would not be surprised if many golfers, especially women of child-bearing age, choose to opt out of this competition. Considering that golf is played outdoors in areas where mosquitos love to congregate, this situation could have dire effects for years to come unless precautions are taken to minimize exposure to this virus.
 
Conclusion
 
In addition to the 2016 Games, golf is scheduled for 2020 in Tokyo. Depending on feedback, the format may well change before Tokyo, though the point may well be moot as the game’s future beyond the 2020 Olympics is up for a vote next year.
 
-Par Shooter
 
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Every Four Years

Every few people can claim to be the best in the world at what they do… and back it up with empirical evidence. Which is just one reason why the Olympics are so compelling. Run, jump, swim, lift weights — even ride horses — if you do it there is only way to be the best in the world. Win an Olympic Gold Medal.
 
More than 13,000 athletes will compete in the Olympics (Winter and Summer Games), representing more than 200 countries, virtually every government in the world. The modern Olympics have become nothing short of a world spectacle, continually drawing the world’s biggest television audiences. The games began in 1896, a re-birth of the ancient tradition that took place in various Greek city-states from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD.
 
The modern games have developed into one of the world’s greatest spectacles, overcoming a couple of World Wars and a boycott or two. In July and August, the world will again focus its attention on the games of the 30th (modern) Olympiad in London from July 25 through August 12.
 
Run for Your Life
 
Running is perhaps the oldest competition known to man (other than boxing, perhaps). And its beauty is its simplicity. Start at point X… run to point Y… first person there wins. But running doesn’t have to be a competition. Drive down any roadway or park trail on a sunny day and you’ll see people running for the simple joy of running. It’s hard to think of an activity that is better for you physically. It will build endurance, improve your cardio-vascular system and strengthen you aerobically. Even if you’re a casual runner, or thinking about being a casual runner, good shoes are imperative. You can wear an old t-shirt and 20-year-old Bermuda shorts, but don’t scrimp on your shoes. Your feet will thank you for taking care of them.
 
Choices, Choices, Choices
 
Shopping for shoes is like shopping for a car — you have hundreds (thousands?) of brands and models to choose from. Where to start? Even if you’re not a real runner, running shoes may suit your lifestyle, anyway. “What we’ve seen over the last few years is that running shoes have taken the place of basketball shoes or cross-trainers as kind of a ‘be-all’ shoe for casual wear,” says Tom McLaughlan of Nike. “People like them because they are light, comfortable and provide a lot of support for your foot, no matter what you are doing.”
 
Light weight is a definite trend in running shoes. “Probably the biggest trend in running shoes over the past few years is that they have become lighter,” says Brian Laumeyer of Reebok. “Technology has let us use lighter materials, especially in the uppers, that provide just as much support, but with a lighter weight.” Shoe representatives agree that you can find very light shoes these days, and that light weight does not necessarily increase the price of the shoe.
 
If the Shoe Fits…
 
Finding the proper fit for any shoe is important, but with running shoes it is an even bigger issue. You will be pounding your soles on pavement and wherever-else, so you need to not just protect and cushion your feet, but you have to have the right fit. So how do you know if the shoe fits? “I know it sounds like a cop-out, but the sales associate in the store is probably your best source of help in fitting the shoe to your foot,” says Mike Prock of Asics. “The associate can tell how much you pronate, and find the right shoe for your foot.”
 
Pronation has traditionally been a big deal in running shoes. The pronated foot is one in which the heel bone angles inward and the arch tends to collapse. It flattens the arch as the foot strikes the ground in order to absorb shock when the heel hits the ground, and to assist in balance during mid-stance. If habits develop, this action can lead to foot pain as well as any number of foot and leg-related ailments.
 
However, there’s some controversy over pronation in the shoe industry these days. “For years, the prevailing wisdom was that pronation had to be corrected by the shoe,” says Prock. “But now, a minority school says essentially ‘pronation — so what?’ That theory says that as long as the foot is protected against the elements and that there is support and cushioning, that’s what’s important.”
 
Of course, your running mileage is also a factor. “A marathoner obviously has different needs than someone who is wearing the shoe for casual use,” says Brian Laumeyer.
 
So You’ve Always Wanted to Dunk a Basketball
 
In time for the London Olympics, Nike is introducing a new basketball shoe called the Hyperdunk. You’re 5’7” and you’ve always wanted to dunk a basketball? Well, stepladders aside, this may not realize that dream for you, but Nike says it will definitely help your “verticality.” Nike says the new shoe is light, more supportive, durable and breathable, and is expressly designed “to meet the demands of elite basketball players worldwide.”
 
The upper of the Hyperdunk uses high-strength cables for support and stability. These responsive cables are loose when at rest and dynamic when in motion, tensing to help stabilize the foot. A synthetic heel clip enhances lockdown, as the engineered foam and mesh of the upper reduces weight while further increasing breathability, strength and durability. Simultaneously, the collar of the shoe wraps lower in the back and higher over the front, increasing flexibility and lateral stability in the heel and ankle.
 
If that all sounds complicated, it probably is. But then basketball players need all the help they can get. “Basketball is one of the most demanding activities anywhere for the human foot,” says Nike’s Tom McLaughlan. “Think of all the lateral movements and quick cuts a basketball player makes while running. This shoe will definitely help support the foot and lessen the chances of blisters that are so common for these players.”
 
Less Drag in the Water
 
For swimming, Speedo introduced its Fastskin line in time for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It uses tiny triangular projections that point backward so water spirals off the swimmer’s body. It must work, because 83% of the medals and 13 of the 15 world records in Sydney were set by Speedo swimmers. Now, in time for the London Olympics, the company is introducing the Fastskin3 — a complete system that integrates the suit, cap and goggles.
 
Miniscule reductions in body drag are critical for a world-class swimmer, but Speedo spokeswoman Audra Silverman, says for the recreational swimmer, it’s not all about speed. “Increased comfort is what most people are going to notice about our products — either in the Fastskin or the Elite line, which is geared more for the casual swimmer.”
 
A Sport for Every Player
 
There are hundreds of sports in the Olympics — and hundreds of sports you can try to get yourself off that couch. Want a family sport? How about table tennis? Perfect for a basement, and you don’t need as much room as the Olympians who sometimes seem like they’re in the next room when they play. Don’t have a partner? Try the Joola Ipong Topspin Table Tennis Robot to give you practice time.
 
Of course, there’s regular tennis, too, and a beginner’s racquet is surprisingly affordable — ditto for a can of balls.
 
Football (not soccer, but football, as the rest of the world calls it), is also an Olympic sport, and while the Olympics may not have the cachet of the quadrennial World Cup, it will still get plenty of attention world-wide.  It’s another sport that won’t cost you a lot — $15 for an entry level ball, though you can pay up to $70 for ‘thermal-bonded seamless surface(s)’ and ‘valve counterweights to improve flight characteristics.’
 
Want to try something a bit more exotic? How about boxing? No, you don’t have to slug it out with a family member or your neighbor (unless you want to), because there is a lot of boxing paraphernalia to keep you in shape without getting your head bashed in. Boxing gloves, a heavy bag and punch mitts can all give you an excellent workout in the comfort of your basement.
 
The Olympics will once again attract the largest television audiences of the year. But it seems a waste to just sit on the couch and watch. Even if you’ll never win a medal, Get in the Game!
 
-Fitness Fanatic
 
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